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Dean of Newcastle in plea to Chancellor Osborne

A SENIOR church leader has accused the Chancellor of heartlessly dismissing unemployed people in the North East as “shirkers”.

Chris Dalliston, Dean of Newcastle
Chris Dalliston, Dean of Newcastle

A SENIOR church leader has accused the Chancellor of heartlessly dismissing unemployed people in the North East as “shirkers”.

In a letter to George Osborne, the Dean of Newcastle has asked why Newcastle and other councils in the North East appears to be facing disproportionately high funding cuts at a time when unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The Very Rev Chris Dalliston said the evidence available suggests the most deprived areas, including parts of the North East, are facing the deepest cuts.

In his letter to the Chancellor he said: “Week by week and day by day, I and my colleagues are encountering people here in the Cathedral or out in the wider community, who are living on benefits and who cannot, despite their best efforts, find employment.

“The services that support them are being cut, the benefits that sustain them are being cut, the jobs which they are being urged to take up simply do not exist.”

Northumberland County Council is tackling some £70m of budget cuts, while Newcastle Council looks to reduce spending by £90m. Between them and Gateshead the two will add nearly 3,000 people to regional unemployment rates in parts of the North East that suffer already from deep-rooted poverty.

It his letter, Mr Dalliston accuses the Chancellor of giving insufficient consideration to the jobless rate.

He said: “According to figures on the Office of Statistics website, employment levels are lowest (66.9%) and unemployment rates highest (10.4%) in the North East and, of course, over 1,000 employees from Newcastle City Council and a similar number from Gateshead are being added to that number in the coming months. These are not people who shirk work but who are desperate to find it.”

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes welcomed the Dean’s support in the local authority’s attempts to force the Government to reconsider the distribution of spending cuts. The city believes it would be £20m better off if the Government applied the national average reduction to Tyneside.

Mr Forbes said: “I have been warning for months now of the serious consequences of the Government’s austerity programme. They are presiding over a massive shift of resources away from councils in the North, with the highest levels of need, to councils in the South. This must stop in the economic and social interests of the country.”

The Treasury last night insisted jobseekers were been helped across the region. A Government spokeswoman said: “The Government’s deficit reduction plan is essential to put the public finances back on track and deliver sustainable growth. It has helped keep interest rates low, supporting hard-pressed families and businesses.

“But we are cutting the deficit in as fair a way as possible. Welfare reforms have focused spending on those most in need and bringing fairness back to the system by supporting people into work and making work pay.

“The additional increase in the Personal Allowance announced in the Autumn Statement will benefit 961,000 people in the North East, lifting 10,000 people out of income tax entirely.

“Extending the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme until 2015 will benefit 3,700 Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support claimants in the North East, and the fuel duty freeze and measures to boost small businesses will also help to encourage growth in the area.”

 

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